CH (as popularized by John Piper) teaches that "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him." Put another way, Piper rearranges the Westminster Shorter Catechism's first answer by saying that "the chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying him forever." This means that everything we do must be done with reference to God and result in human enjoyment of Him and not the thing being enjoyed for its own sake.
One of Paul Helm's biggest complaints is that the language of the WSC is meant to have an eschatalogical character, and the eschatological character of the answer is lost in Piper's paraphrase. Here is what Helm says, with reference to the WSC:
The chief end of man does not refer to the gain in satisfaction that each of our actions may provide as we perform them, but it has a distinctive eschatological strand to it. The chief end of man (here and now) is to glorify God and (at the last, when experiencing the vision of God) to enjoy him for ever. Here and now human life is to be dominated by glorifying God by what we think and do and feel, and endure, whatever the pain. Then, the Christian’s pilgrimage over, the faithful Christian will enjoy God when he shall be like him, seeing him as he is. It seems that Christian hedonism takes these two elements, the present Christian life and the life to come, and collapses them together.Helm then argues that making the enjoyment of God the end of every action is not a fair characterization of how humanity is meant to glorify God.
And of course such glorifying of God is the ‘chief end’, not the only end. It provides a place not only subordinating what we do to God’s glory, but also for enjoyment, including the enjoyment of creaturely gifts for their own sake.So that becomes the question then, doesn't it? Is it possible that something can be done for its own sake, without any direct reference to God and yet still bring Him glory? I am certain that Piper would say no to this. He does argue that "not only is disinterested morality (doing good "for its own sake") impossible; it is undesirable." However, Helm would probably affirm this. Helm is talking about things that do not have a moral dimension - such as collecting opera records. Piper would argue, however, that everything has a moral dimension. If something is done without reference to God, then it is immoral because it is a form of idolatry. Says Helm:
May we not find satisfaction in God in such innocencies as opera programme collecting? May he not be glorified in them? May God not be glorified for the provision of such innocent pleasures? A Christian hedonism may perhaps reply ‘Yes’. But if so then the link between satisfaction in God and glorifying him becomes more and more tenuous, and the claim runs the risk of being true by definition. Either the actions that express Christian liberty are ways of finding satisfaction in God, or they are not. If they are not, then Christian hedonism is at once refuted. If they are, then the idea of it is stretched, perhaps stretched to the breaking point of unreality, for then almost any action might count as one in which a person finds satisfaction in God.At one point, Helm calls attention to a selection from his book Calvin at the Centre where he discusses Calvin vs. Augustine on uti and frui (use and love). In that book, he quotes Calvin (Institutes III.10.2) on the subject of the enjoyment of things:
Now then, if we consider for what end he created food, we shall ﬁnd that he consulted not only for our necessity, but also for our enjoyment and delight. Thus in clothing, the end was, in addition to necessity, comeliness and honour; and in herbs, fruits and trees besides their various uses, gracefulness of appearance and sweetness of smell ... The natural qualities of things themselves demonstrate to what end, and how far, they may be lawfully enjoyed. Has the Lord adorned ﬂowers with all the beauty which spontaneously presents itself to the eye, and the sweet odour which delights the sense of smell, and shall it be unlawful for us to enjoy that beauty and this odour?What? Has he not so distinguished colours as to make some more agreeable than others? Has he not given qualities to gold and silver, ivory and marble, thereby rendering them precious things above other metals and stones? In short, has he not given many things a value without having any necessary use?With regard to the eschatological character of the first question of the Shorter Catechism, I think Helm is right. In which case, the WSC does not, on a de novo reading, offer prima facie support for CH. The question comes down to whether or not something in the bounds of Christian liberty can be enjoyed for its own sake, without direct reference to God. If so (and let me be clear, only if so), then I would agree with Helm that Christian Hedonism is indeed shown to be a somewhat inadequate expression of Christian experience.